Reviewed by Jody Uy
THE AU PAIR
By Emma Rous
What in the world is an Au Pair?
This may or may not be the first thing that runs through your mind as you pick up the book and read its title. I was similarly puzzled and not quite sure what to expect from the novel (aka I had no idea what an au pair was). But based on my very quick Google-sponsored research, an au pair is basically a nanny who helps around the house and lives with the family employing him/her and often helps in taking care of their children.
The Au Pair focuses on two characters who had never met, but whose lives dramatically intertwine and unravel over the course of the book. Seraphine Mayes, who makes up half of a set of twins, discovers a picture of her mother holding only one baby on the day of their births. Laura Silveira, the Mayes family au pair at that time, disappears after the twins are born and after the Mayes matriarch unexpectedly jumps off a cliff. Seraphine begins to doubt her own identity and goes lengths to dig up the secrets of her family’s past. With her father recently deceased and her mother long gone, Seraphine finds that Laura is the only one with the answers.
While it is described as a domestic thriller, The Au Pair starts off rather slowly. Chapters alternate between the past, which is told from Laura’s point of view, and the present, which is said through Seraphine’s. Since we’re led through two different timelines, it takes quite a while for things to start kicking off. Admittedly, I had a hard time getting through the first several chapters and only found that it started picking up speed by the latter half of the book. Among the two storylines, it is Laura’s that stands out for me as her character is more deeply explored. She signs up to work as an au pair and learns to deal with the intricacies of the Mayes household—from running around with their son, Edwin, to catering to the fluctuating moods of his mother, Ruth.
Though it was a slow burner, I did find the setting of the story rather intriguing and wish it was focused on more in the book. The Mayes family live in their beautiful home, which they affectionately call “Summerbourne”. The estate is situated by the woods, the beach, and a cliff—a combination that is both breathtaking but also potentially sinister. Apart from the elegance of the sprawling estate, it is found in a small town far from the city. In a place where everyone knows everyone, rumors fly around quickly and talk of curses and superstitions spread like wildfire. When things start getting out of hand as Seraphine inches closer and closer to the truth, it is the silent and watchful eyes of the town, along with the secrets of the old home that add to the sense of suspense and mystery, ultimately drawing readers deeper into the story.
As a novel primarily wrapped in mystery, there is also a fair share of romance that sparks in the book between different characters in the past and the present. The characters, though they sometimes blurred together at different parts of the book, did play off of each other and built a tense atmosphere with their clashing ideas and agendas. Seeing Seraphine’s obsession with finding out the truth of her own identity go against the laid back attitude of her twin and the hysterical nature of her grandmother was interesting to read.
All in all, the book is a fair read for anyone into family drama, scandals, and a light suspense. The twists and turns can be hard to believe and might be predictable at times, but it still has its fair share of shocking revelations and is able to tie up loose ends. It isn’t particularly groundbreaking in its plot or message and tends to move quite slowly for a thriller, but it is an entertaining story for those looking for a complicated romance and an intriguing family affair.
Jody is currently an undergraduate student taking up Education and is discovering everyday the greatest bits about reading and learning that fuel our thinking. When she’s not drowning in readings for class, she drowns herself in music, books, and the wonders of the Internet. You can find her on Instagram @ohfishness.
[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]